20.01.2017, 12:00
Brest thriving in debut European season

FEATURE: Just four years since their drop to France's third tier, Brest Bretagne Handball are making a big splash in their first Women's EHF Cup campaign and Maud-Eva Copy has been a part of the entire journey

Brest thriving in debut European season

This is what you call “starting off with a bang”. In their first European Cup season, Brest Bretagne Handball have recorded an impressive record of eight wins in as many games.

After starting their Women’s EHF Cup campaign at the very first qualification round, the French club went top of Group B last weekend after a home win against Kuban, 27:21.

“I guess we're doing alright for now,” jokes left wing Maud-Eva Copy.

“You might call it a surprise because this is our first time playing the EHF Cup, but in another way, it isn’t.

“We have many players who have experience and are not intimidated by these matches, because they have played bigger matches.”

Bigger than EHF Cup games? Well, you can say so considering that Allison Pineau and Melinda Geiger were playing the Women’s EHF Champions League Quarter-finals with Romanian side Baia Mare last season, while Marie Prouvensier and Marta Mangué are regular fixtures in the French and Spanish national teams. That was the aim for a club which has just returned to the French top flight, after spending four years underground.

Maud Eva-Copy, from darkness into light

The sudden rise is the charm of this Brest Bretagne team. Built on the ashes of Arvor 29, which went into bankruptcy in 2012 after winning the league title, the team dropped to the third division. Four years later, they have a French cup under their belt, a trophy won while still playing in the second division.

From the 2012 title-winning side, only one player remains: Maud-Eva Copy.

“The end of the Arvor 29 era was a bit hard to deal with, we had worked hard but all our dreams vanished.

“But we wanted to get back to the top as quickly as possible. Winning a major trophy was a big step, playing in a European Cup competition was another but we don't want to stop there.

“Winning the French league is a goal we'd like to fulfil; playing in the Champions League might be one too,” says Copy.

Some things remain the same

The biggest change in Brittany has been the names of the players on the team sheet. Maud-Eva Copy may have remained in the squad during the dark years, but she is still now focused on being a professional handball player, after finishing her studies a year ago.

“I always had that routine and I liked it. It gave me the opportunity to take my mind off handball a little bit,” explains the 24-year-old.

“But once I had completed my studies, I wanted to give handball a go and see how far it could take me. The degree I have gives some freedom in a sense that I don't have to worry about what I'll have to do afterwards.”

Another thing that has not changed since 2012 is the devotion of the supporters, who were able to fill a 4,000-seat arena when the club was still playing in lower divisions.

Last Saturday, for the game against Kuban, 4,077 fans backed Brest en route to another victory.

“That's a real strength for our club, which has always attracted a lot of people. We feel that in the tough times, they give us extra power, and we know that home advantage in Europe is even more important,” concludes Copy

Brest Bretagne Handball can take a big step towards the quarter-finals with a victory away to Hungarian side Alba Fehérvár KC on Sunday at 14:00 CET, one of six Women’s EHF Cup matches to be streamed live on ehfTV.com this weekend.

TEXT: Kevin Domas / cor

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